There is a reassuring air of familiarity on their visit to Moss Lane for the Alies. The Vale suffered a defeat, in fact there were some Alies on this latest encounter who could not remember a Vale win away at Liverpool St Helens, although some could recall beating St Helens before the merger, and the hospitality cannot be faulted.
The Alies were greeted by the irrepressible John Williams after Trevor, the coach driver, had followed the instructions to reverse the coach backwards to his parking slot. John assured everyone that the beer was at its finest having being pumped directly through from Wigan!
On a chilly day the traditional open fire in the clubhouse was roaring away, John ensured that the Alies all had drinks and a match day programme. President Ray had a chat before being called away to sort out a problem, what a workaholic he is, and match sponsor Lenny Lowe, one of the Vale’s favourite after dinner speakers, sent over a tray of drinks.
Between drinks the Alies indulged in some furtive conversations that were reminiscent of Basil Fawlty’s instructions to his staff, “Don’t mention the war.” Darren Wilson was the hot topic. Was he playing or not? In a stage whisper it was announced that “Darren was not playing!” followed by an out of the corner of the mouth aside that, “yes he was!”
The Press Secretary was instructed not to fill in the match card until the appointed time and all that was missing was the arrival of a vaulting horse containing Mr Wilson with boots, false passport and a beard. Eventually all was revealed in the warm up area when the squad parted and Darren was spotted pirouetting in the middle.
But before the parlour game of “Spot the number nine” began the Alies had enjoyed a convivial journey down the M6 in bright sunshine, there was so much heat in the coach that Trevor had to switch on the air conditioning. Big Norman brought along some bottles of crispy red and a pack of cheese nibbles to celebrate a recent birthday, in addition to passing round a book devoted to the Cumbrian dialect. By the time Liverpool St Helens was reached the Alies could produce nine different ways of pronouncing Aspatria, but of course none could beat the gold standard set by Big Norman.
Morse and the Solicitor were engrossed in the Slaughter and May document and occasionally Morse, and his riot of coloured socks, made their way to the front to emphasise a proposal. Well at least it did stop Enty chuntering on about the machinations to be found in the world of finance on both sides of the Atlantic.
As always the subject of health and medicine is always near the top of the Alies agenda. The Press Secretary was able to report that he had been given the all clear after a dizzy turn caused initially by trying to calm down a wayward pussy that was creating a racket in the bedroom.
The Solicitor was also had received a clean bill of health after completing his bowel screening test. Gilly informed everyone that he had never taken such a test, “That is because you are so full of sh.t.” was the chorused response.
Gilly was quick to respond to a request from Shagpile who was obviously wrestling with current affairs and not the list of runners and riders at Sandown.
“What’s happening in the world?” Shagpile asked.
“Your world or mine?” replied a concerned Gilly.
When a Meat Loaf tribute band was overtaken on the M6 memories came flooding back of the night the Alies performed “Bat out of Hell” at a Captain’s Cabaret. The Oil Tycoon, who is a “Dead Ringer” for Meat Loaf, whipped everyone along in a throbbing performance that brought the house down.
“The skies were pure and the fields were green. And the sun was brighter than it’s ever been,” throughout a rather laboured stop start game. Certainly some of the stoppages did provoke plenty of lively debate on the touchline and for a number of the Alies the touch paper was burning brightly after a few minutes.
The Solicitor stomped around in ever widening circles as he constructed his own no-fly zone, the Major and the Boy Racer had plenty of bones to chew on, and after his party piece of inserting a lit cigar in his mouth, the Press Secretary forced a barrier out of its socket, but Sutty was on hand to slip it back into place.
A beaming Fitter appeared in a fetching high-viz jacket. It had been an exciting week for the Grand Cru because the Kubota had been woken from its slumbers the pitches had been chain harrowed leaving the Fitter in seventh heaven.
Sitting in the lounge, in front of a splendid post match buffet, the Alies could be forgiven for thinking that “Life is a lemon,” they would not be getting their money back, although Big Norman did win the scratch card.
There was some compensation at the end of a dispiriting eighty minutes because as the Alies boarded the coach they were treated to a selection of marshmallows kindly donated by Mrs Powers, much more tasty than any cupcakes to be found in Mrs Robinson’s fridge. “Here’s to you Mrs Powers, koo-koo-ka-choo!”